After a series of successful spaces missions over the past year, 2021 promises some exciting new international exploration projects.
Three nations have launched spacecraft designed to begin exploring Mars in 2021.
The US space agency, NASA, expects its explorer, called Perseverance, to land on the red planet on February 18. samples“NASA says.
Perseverance is NASA’s fifth Mars explorer. He carries a small experimental helicopter, called Ingenuity. The device would be the first to test the skills of this craft on another planet. An important experiment will test a device designed to capture carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere and turn it into oxygen.
China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft launched last July with the mission of looking for signs of water on Mars. It is also expected to arrive on Mars in February. The spacecraft will attempt to land on Utopia Planitia, a large flat area in the northern half of the planet. Once there, Tianwen-1 will deploy an explorer to explore.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched its hope Probe in July 2020. The explorer will also reach the red planet next month. The country describes Hope as “the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its atmosphere layers“.
The mission will study the climate and meteorological activity in the low atmosphere of Mars. Hope will also observe and study hydrogen and oxygen in the Martian upper atmosphere, the UAE space agency said.
New spacecraft to test
Boeing is expected to conduct another unmanned flight test of its Starliner spacecraft. The company was chosen by NASA – along with SpaceX of America – for its commercial crew program. The program uses private spacecraft to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX has already completed two successfully manned missions to the ISS.
If Boeing’s unmanned test goes well, the company is expected to continue its first Starliner manned test flight.
NASA said it plans to complete final preparations for the first flight of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for a possible launch sometime in the fall. The flight would be the first unmanned test flight for SLS and Orion. The goal is to complete a month-long mission around the moon.
The test is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024. The long-term goal of the program is to establish a continued human presence on the moon.
NASA tests planetary defense
In late July, NASA says it will launch its first “planetary defense test” asteroids. The mission is called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). It will send a spacecraft to intentionally collide with an asteroid at high speed in an attempt to change the asteroid’s orbit into space. The target is an asteroid close to Earth called Didymos. The operation will only be a defensive test capacity, as Didymos poses no threat to Earth.
In October, NASA plans to launch its Lucy space mission. The operation aims to study a population of unusual objects orbiting Jupiter known as Trojan asteroids. The space agency says the mission will involve a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids.
Also in October, NASA plans to launch its James Webb space telescope which has been delayed several times. It is the replacement for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in operation for 30 years.
The James Webb is a large infrared telescope that is almost seven meters long mirror to observe space. NASA says the mission is designed to look more into space and offer more answers about the universe’s past than any other spacecraft.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and NASA. Mario Ritter, Jr. he was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section and visit our Facebook page.
Words in this story
mission – n. the flight of a spaceship to perform a certain task or job
shows – n. a small amount of something that provides information about what was extracted
probe – n. a vehicle used to examine or observe something up close
cover – n. a level of something spread over an area
asteroid – n. small planets or space rocks orbiting the sun
capacity – n. the ability to do a certain job or task
mirror – n. a piece of glass that reflects light or images